July 24, 2011

Tip of the day—Part 3 Food Preservation Series

Thus far we’ve looked at dry and cold storage, and today we’ll take a look at my tips for freezing foods.

Freezing foods.  Along with soups, leftovers, and such, freezer jam also falls into this category. This time of the year—Just about anything

Pros

  • You can freeze a little at a time.  There is often little or no work involved.
  • You can prepare meals in advance and have them on hand when needed.

Cons

  • If you have limited freezer space, it can become frustrating to weed through containers whenever you want to pull something out. If you have too large of a freezer, foods can easily be forgotten. 
  • If containers are not labeled, you can forget what they have in them.
  • If the power goes out for an extended period of time, you can lose your investment.

Tips for Freezing Foods:

  • Wrap muffins and quick breads in waxed paper before storing in a separate container. This will keep them from sticking together.
  • Bell peppers and bananas can be popped into the freezer as is—no need for peeling first.
  • Save juice from home canned tomatoes to add to soups and stews. Save juice from home canned fruit to use to sweeten teas, smoothies, or fruit soups.
  • Use air tight containers as much as possible to reduce freezer burn. People with vacuum packers usually rave about the product, but I find them too expensive.
  • Reduce the amount of head space in containers and cover foods in liquids whenever possible to reduce freezer burn.
  • Label everything well, and see through containers help a lot. Try to buy BPA free if you opt for those and try to avoid putting hot foods in them or placing them in the microwave.
  • If freezing foods like berries or grated zucchini, drain well and then put them in a single layer on a jelly roll pan. Freeze that and then once they are hard, transfer them to another, more practical container. This will keep them from sticking together and make it easier for you to use a little at a time.
  • Blanching is recommended for many vegetables, as it helps prevent the food from becoming starchy in the freezer. Basic recipe--clean and cut the food, add the food to boiling water (sometimes salted boiling water), cook for 1-2 min or just as the color of the food starts to brighten, then remove the food from the boil and immediately place it in an ice bath. Let it sit in the ice bath to stop the cooking and cool it completely. Drain and freeze.
  • The preferred method for storing corn is to freeze it. When corn is at the milk stage, cut the kernels from the cob, making sure to avoid cutting into the cob where it is tough. Milk the cob by wringing it in your hands, as if wringing a towel dry. Cook the corn, milk, and a bit of water (enough to keep it from scorching) on medium heat. When the color of the corn turns to a bright yellow (approximately 5-10 minutes depending on the size of your skillet and stove), remove it from the heat. Put it in a shallow bowl or jelly roll pan and let it cool at room temperature. Place the corn in freezer bags or storage containers and label well. The corn will tend to lump together so store it in a few different sizes of containers as to how you think you might use it. Be sure to save at least one container for Thanksgiving dinner—it will be a hit!
  • Ice cube trays are wonderful for storing pureed herbs, juices, and homemade baby food. Freeze them in cubes and then pop them out to another storage container.
  • Pesto freezes beautifully. Just don’t add the cheese when freezing—add it to your dish when you are ready to eat instead.
  • If purchasing large amounts of meat at the grocery or from a farmer who has the meat wrapped loosely, rewrap before storing it in the freezer or add additional butcher paper to the outside. This helps to insulate against freezer burn. I’ve seen much less problem when buying meat from local farmers than when buying meat at the grocery.

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